24 April 2011

Photos of former 1st Round proCane NFL Draft Picks

Alex Smith, Ronnie Brown, Antrel Rolle and Cedric Benson 2005
The four first-round picks have had mixed results in their careers. Smith, the No. 1 pick, has been a part-time starter for the 49ers. Brown has battled injuries in his career but made the 2008 Pro Bowl. Rolle has been the most successful of the four, making two Pro Bowls in his career. Benson was a bust for Chicago but has restarted his career in Cincinnati, rushing for more than 1,000 yards in each of the past two seasons

Vinny Testaverde 1987
The Heisman Trophy winner talks on the phone after being selected by the Buccaneers with the No. 1 pick in the draft. He struggled with Tampa Bay, throwing 25 more interceptions than touchdowns and compiling a 24-48 record. But he went on to have a productive 21-year career in the league and earned two Pro Bowl selections.

Chris Berman 1987
The long-time ESPN NFL analyst and host works the draft board during the telecast. On the 1987 you can see eventual first pick proCane Vinny Testaverde and eventual 3rd pick Alonzo Highsmith.

William Bidwell and Ottis Anderson 1979
The Cardinals' first-round pick holds up his jersey alongside owner William Bidwell. The running back won Rookie of Year in 1979 and made the Pro Bowl in his first two seasons. He later added the 1991 Super Bowl MVP award for his performance in the Giants' win over the Bills.

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Hurricanes shut out of NFL Draft's first round for third straight year

For the third consecutive year, the University of Miami was shut out in the first round of the NFL Draft.

Several Hurricanes were predicted to be potential first-rounders over the past few months, but 32 picks were made Thursday night without a UM player hearing his name called.

The Hurricanes hadn't gone three consecutive years without at least one player going in the opening round since a five-year run from 1968-72.
Safety Kenny Phillips was the last Miami alum to be drafted in the first round; 31st overall by the New York Giants in the 2008 draft.

UM dominated the draft from 2000-07 with 59 players chosen, including 25 first-round picks. In 2004, Miami produced an NFL Draft-record six No. 1 picks and still owns the mark for first-rounders in 14 consecutive years.

Miami figures to make a lot more noise in the draft beginning with Friday's second and third rounds. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. projects five Hurricanes going in the second round alone.

The first UM player likely to be selected is cornerback Brandon Harris, an All-ACC cornerback each of the past two years who left school after his junior season to enter the draft. Harris was seen as a probable first-round pick early in the process but saw his stock drop after a good, not great, performance at the NFL Scouting Combine in February.

After Harris, thinks are more iffy. Most projections have receiver Leonard Hankerson going next. Hankerson overcame a habit of dropping passes early in his career to set a UM single-season record with 1,132 receiving yards in 2010.

Also expected to be selected Friday is defensive lineman Allen Bailey. The 6-foot-4, 285-pounder was once projected as a certain first-round pick but an underwhelming senior season and a question of what position he will play as a professional caused him to drop.

The biggest surprise could be cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke. Losing his starting job as a senior, he never seemed to fulfill his potential, but he dazzled scouts after running a 4.26-second, 40-yard-dash at the combine, the third-fastest time in the event's history. In his last mock draft, Kiper had Van Dyke drafted in the second round by Seattle with the 57th overall pick.

Offensive tackle Orlando Franklin, from Atlantic High, is also expected to be chosen no later than early in the third round. Linebacker Colin McCarthy is likely to hear his name called late in the second round or somewhere in the third, according to analysts.

Tailbacks Graig Cooper and Damien Berry are possibilities to be drafted on Saturday when rounds 4-7 are held. If all eight UM players are selected, it would match the Hurricanes' total production of draft picks in the past three years.

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Eric Winston Plans to Return to Reliant Friday

HOUSTON - Houston Texans right tackle Eric Winston, one of the team's co-player representatives, told FOX 26 Sports he plans to go to Reliant Stadium on Friday.

Winston is headed back to the Texans' headquarters because the NFL told its teams to get back to normal football operations on Friday after the league was told twice this week by a federal judge to end its lockout.

The NFL is appealing and his hoping for a favorable ruling from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis.

Meanwhile, NFL players like Winston are planning to go back to work.

"I will probably go in (Friday), at the very least just to talk to some of the medical guys," Winston said.

"Maybe grab a (weight) lift there, since I was scheduled to do one anyway. I'm definitely not telling the all the guys just drop everything you're doing and make sure you get up there as fast as possible. I just don't think that's necessary.

"The fact is the NFL has to open their doors and has to conduct business as usual and now the players will continue on with their business as usual."

And that is just fine with Texans coach Gary Kubiak.

"Just very excited," Kubiak said in an interview with FOX 26 Sports. "Hope to see a bunch of the players (Friday).

"We'll have a team meeting on Monday. We have to get 14 weeks of work into 10 weeks and we have a lot of work to do putting in a new defense.

The Texans have a new defensive coordinator in Wade Phillips. His defense, the 3-4, becomes the base defense for the Texans

Click here to order Eric Winston’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Vince Wilfork goes back to work

MILFORD — Patriots [team stats] players have been informed they can show up at Gillette Stadium today at 8 a.m. to begin offseason workouts.
The lockout, from that perspective, is over for now, with free agency soon to follow.

Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork [stats], who held his annual draft day fund-raiser last night at Pinz Entertainment, plans on being in Foxboro bright and early.

“We did get information (from the Patriots) saying we’re expected to start at 8 o’clock. We’re expected to be working out,” said Wilfork, who had a big turnout for his event, which raises money for diabetes research. “So they’re expecting us to be around. I’m pretty sure everybody’s gotten that call. With that call, that means you’re going back to work. So be there, and see what happens after that.”

While Wilfork plans to report, he can’t speak for the rest of his teammates. They’re scattered all over the place, which is probably a similar scenario with other NFL teams.

For instance, quarterback Tom Brady [stats] was last spotted on the West Coast. Chances are, he won’t be among the crowd in the Gillette weight room today.

“Some guys are out of town, some guys are on vacation, some are out of the state, so you never know who can get back,” Wilfork said. “I just think with the owners opening it up (today) at 8 a.m., either you’re going to be there or you’re not. They opened the doors because legally they had to. So they’re doing their part. Now it’s up to the players to do their part if they want to attend, if they can. If not, like I said, with vacations, you never know what people have on their agendas.”

Wilfork is one player who pulled his kids out of school locally and enrolled them in Florida because he was going to spend the bulk of his time there thanks to the lockout.

“I made a decision to move my family down to Florida, get them out of this weather, and be down there for the offseason because of the lockout,” Wilfork said. “I’m pretty sure a lot of people went back to their hometown. But we just have to wait and see. Owners can’t get too mad, coaches can’t get too mad if (today) comes and you have 10 people in the room. You can’t be mad about that. I think the guys who can get here, will be here. Whatever happens, they’ve covered their tail by opening up the doors. Now it’s all on the players who’s going to show, who’s not going to show. For whatever reason it is, that’s what it’s going to be.”

Players will find out more in the coming days in terms of when organized team activities officially begin, as well as minicamps, etc. Now, all of that may get thrown out the window down the road if the league goes ahead with another attempt at a stay of the ruling that nullified the lockout.
Wilfork said with the chaos that went on this week, and if the players are locked out again, he fears mostly for the fans.

“They’ve gotten the bad end of the stick throughout all of this,” he said. “Us as athletes, we want to be working out, we want to be with the team, we want to be in our facilities, getting in the hot tubs, cold tubs, eating together back again. But for the fans, they’re the ones sitting back and saying, ‘What the hell’s going on?’ They’re the ones who’s bought season tickets. Some teams have already collected on those tickets. So, the fans are getting the bad end. So I really hope we settle something not only because this is what we do for a living, but because of the fans. If the fans don’t buy tickets and support us, how do you make money? So, let’s be real right now. If the fans aren’t spending, how does a team make money? You have to look at that.

“As players, we always appreciate the fans we have. Being up here in New England, we have some of the greatest fans. They’re die-hard fans. These are the fans, when we’re playing in 10-degree weather, with snow coming down, our stands are still filled. So I definitely feel bad for the fans.”

Last night, the fans showed their support. Pinz was packed for Wilfork’s charity event, and the big guy was truly heartened.

“We had our fingers crossed,” Wilfork said, referring to his wife, Bianca, who works the event with him. “With the lockout, Thursday night, a school night, they’re not on vacation. But the outcome is great. We’re amazed. A lot of credit goes to the people who came out. I’m pretty sure a lot of people have to go to work tomorrow. But for the cause, it’s amazing.”

Click here to order Vince Wilfork’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Greg Olsen among Bears denied Halas Hall workout

With the NFL lockout lifted for now, some Bears players are making an effort to get back to work. Tight end Greg Olsen, kicker Robbie Gould and running back Kahlil Bell were among the players who arrived at Halas Hall on Thursday morning.

However, the players were unable to work out, with the weight room being off-limits while the Bears prepared for Thursday night’s draft.

Bell, who stayed at the facility for about 15 minutes, said the Bears told him he wasn't locked out but that the weight room was closed and no one could work out. He chatted with Olsen briefly.

"Pretty much all you could do is walk in, walk around, and walk out," Bell said. "I didn't see any of the coaches. Just the training staff and the strength coach."

Bell, who has yet to sign his one-year tender as an exclusive rights free agent, said he received an e-mail from Gould encouraging all the players to start working out together, with the lockout lifted. After being denied at Halas Hall, Bell said he planned to return to a fitness facility he has been using in Vernon Hills.

"I mean, it's been a long time, and we've never spent this much time apart," Bell said of not being able to work out with his teammates. "I was figuring everything would be cool. But I guess that's not happening."

Afterward, Gould wrote on his Twitter account: "Went to workout facility locker room and weight room closed."

Olsen tweeted on his account: "If the roles were reversed in labor dispute on eve of training camp and a player didn't show up to camp would he be fined?"

Olsen is one of the players hoping to secure a long-term deal this offseason, and the Bears would like to keep the talented tight end in the fold.

"I know there’s a lot that goes into (an extension), with the situation with the labor agreement or what not,’’ Olsen told the Tribune in March. "I would love to have that security and be here for a long time. There are a lot of things right now kind of out of all of our hands. We’ve got to let it play out. Once we get all this situated and get to free agency and all of that out of the way, we’ll see what happens.’’

Defensive tackle Matt Toeaina and offensive lineman Johan Asiata also showed up at Halas on Thursday morning. Gould and defensive end Israel Idonije came to Halas on Tuesday after the lockout was first lifted by Judge Susan Nelson.

Some are proceeding under the assumption that the league year has begun, as ordered by the judge, but with the NFL going to appeals court to seek a reversal, teams are awaiting guidance fom the league.

Click here to order Greg Olsen’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Ravens back in the Ray Lewis territory of the draft

The last time the Ravens selected 26th in the first round, they took a chance on an undersized linebacker named Ray Lewis. He has gone on to become the face of the Ravens' franchise and lead a Hall of Fame career.

While no one can expect to find another Ray Lewis, teams have failed to have the same luck when it comes to this spot.

Since Lewis was drafted, the No. 26 slot has produced just three Pro Bowl players (guard Alan Faneca, cornerback Lito Sheppard and linebacker Clay Matthews). It's a point in the draft where such busts as quarterback Jim Druckenmiller, defensive end Erik Flowers, running back Chris Perry and defensive tackle John McCargo were selected.

Here's a look at the 12 players drafted with the 26th pick since Lewis:

1997: Jim Druckenmiller, quarterback, San Francisco. He will go down as one of the biggest first-round quarterback flops. His career stats: one touchdown pass, four interceptions and a 29.2 quarterback rating.

1998: Alan Faneca, guard, Pittsburgh. He has become one of the best guards of his generation. The eight-time Pro Bowl lineman was an anchor for the Steelers for years.

1999: Fernando Bryant, cornerback, Jacksonville. He never reached Pro Bowl status, but he was a dependable nine-year starter in the NFL.

2000: Erik Flowers, defensive end, Buffalo. He recorded five sacks and six starts in his forgettable six-year NFL career. Keith Bulluck, a two-time All-Pro linebacker, was drafted four spots later.

2001: Jamar Fletcher, cornerback, Miami. This is how much the Dolphins coveted him: They sent him to San Diego to complete a trade for wide receiver David Boston. He has been a journeyman since.

2002: Lito Sheppard, cornerback, Philadelphia. A two-time Pro Bowl defender, he was an integral part of a talented Eagles secondary. He has 19 career interceptions.

2003: Kwame Harris, offensive tackle, San Francisco. He was a longtime starter for the 49ers, but he built a reputation for being soft. Nnamdi Asomugha, who is considered one of the top cornerbacks in the game, was taken with the 31st pick.

2004: Chris Perry, running back, Cincinnati. Benched in favor of Cedric Benson, Perry was a major disappointment, averaging 17.3 yards per game and scoring a total of two touchdowns.

2005: Chris Spencer, center, Seattle. He has become a five-year starter but has failed to live up to first-round expectations.

2006: John McCargo, defensive tackle, Buffalo. The surprise first-round selection has never started a game. His trade to Indianapolis was voided because he failed a physical.

2007: Anthony Spencer, defensive end-outside linebacker, Dallas. Starting his past two seasons, Spencer has impacted games with 11 sacks and four forced fumbles.

2008: Duane Brown, offensive tackle, Houston. After struggling in his rookie season, Brown was suspended four games last year for violating the NFL's policy on performance enhancing drugs.

2009: Clay Matthews, LB, USC. A two-time Pro Bowl performer, Matthews finished second in the NFL defensive player of the year race after recording 13.5 sacks in 2010.

2010: Dan Williams, DT, Tennessee. He didn’t start a game as a rookie, making 38 tackles as a backup.

Click here to order Ray Lewis’ proCane Rookie Card.

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proCane 1st Round NFL Draft Possibilities

Todd McShay broke down a few possibilities where either proCanes Brandon Harris or Allen Bailey could be selected in the 1st Round.

McShay first said that the Baltimore Ravens with the 26th pick in the 1st round could pick Brandon Harris instead of a defensive end.

Another scenario has the New England Patriots selecting Allen Bailey with the 28th pick of the first round, but as always one never knows as the Patriots do like to trade their picks.

In McShay’s other scenario for Brandon Harris, he has the Pittsburgh Steelers picking him with the 31st pick of the first round. McShay says: “Harris is not an elite playmaker but he's more physical than his size suggests and has the athleticism to help upgrade the cornerback unit and push for the No. 2 job.”

Click here to order Devin Hester’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Mike Mayock Says Orlando Franklins Will Not Make It Past the 2nd Round

Orlando Franklin, a six-foot-seven, 310-pound offensive lineman with the Miami Hurricanes, is projected to go anywhere between the second and fourth rounds.

Franklin was born in Jamaica, but grew up in Toronto before moving to Florida to enhance his opportunity to secure a football scholarship. After his mother quit her job and moved the family Delray Beach, Fla., Franklin landed at Miami, where he played at guard his first three years there before switching to tackle as a senior.

After playing his entire senior year with a torn meniscus in his knee, Franklin had surgery before the combine but still chose to perform there anyways.

Mike Mayock, The NFL Network's draft guru, has said he doesn't believe Franklin will make it past the second round.

Click here to order Devin Hester’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Alex Cora starting at shortstop for the Nationals again

Alex Cora started at shortstop for the Nationals again on Wednesday. Ian Desmond was placed on the paternity leave list after his wife gave birth to the couple's first child Tuesday, so Cora will fill in for now.

Click here to order Devin Hester’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Matt Bosher hopes to get drafted this week

Matt Bosher is rated the third-best player at his position heading into this week's NFL Draft.

That would assure Bosher of a pretty big payday if he played quarterback, defensive line or just about any other position.

But Bosher, a four-year letterman at the University of Miami by way of Jupiter High, is a punter. In the 2010 draft, only three punters were selected and none was chosen higher than the fifth round. In the past five drafts, a total of 23 punters and place-kickers were picked.

"I don't know," Bosher said when asked if he expected to be selected. "Kickers and punters are a weird position when it comes to the draft. You can only be hopeful that you've done enough in your career and in the couple of months leading up to the draft to get drafted.

"If not, you keep working hard and hope you get picked up."

Bosher did plenty during his UM career. He served as the Hurricanes' punter in each of his four seasons, place-kicked for three seasons and was the team's kickoff specialist the last two years.

Bosher connected on 84.9 percent (45 of 53) of his field-goal attempts at Miami and ranks among the all-time leaders in several kicking categories, but he said that most NFL teams are looking at him as a punter. He averaged 41.7 yards at UM and was a second-team All-ACC selection as a punter in each of the past two seasons.

Bosher was one of three punters invited to the NFL Scouting Combine in February.

"If I'm not drafted, it's not over," said Bosher, who is represented by Boca Raton-based agent Glenn Schwartzman. "I just want to play with a team. I don't care how I get there."

Bosher is one of three UM players with Palm Beach County roots who might be drafted this week.

Offensive lineman Orlando Franklin, from Atlantic High, is expected to go in the first couple of rounds. Running back Damien Berry, the Hurricanes' leading rusher last season from Belle Glade, is seen as a low-round pick or free agent.

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Vince Wilfork: Time off sparks retiring thoughts

BOSTON -- Patriots defensive lineman Vince Wilfork is used to grinding away in the offseason, working out at the team facility and being part of organized team activities. This year has obviously been different, a result of the NFL's unsettled labor situation.

Wilfork's workouts have been at his Florida home, where he's also considered a life without football.

"The time you have off, you really have a chance to sit back, enjoy, and let your body heal correctly, because most of the time you're getting back in football so quick that injuries don't heal as well," he said at Matt Light's Lockout Breakfast at the Liberty Hotel. "I think this time there are more negative things people look at, but you can take some positives out of it as a player -- to sit back and heal correctly.

"This time off, you really sit back and think a lot. I tell my wife [Bianca] all the time that I could get used to retirement. She just gives me a look like, 'You're crazy.'

"That's one of those things that does go through your mind. I'm coming up to eight years [in the NFL]. I'm pretty sure it runs through people's minds, retirement. You never know, man, [with] how long this thing gets dragged out, but hopefully it will be over soon and we can all be back to doing what we love."

Wilfork said he believes there will be a season in 2011, it's just a matter of when.

"It's so much to lose as fans, owners and players, not to have it," he said.

Click here to order Vince Wilfork’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Hester, Wade to Lead Summer Sports Camps in New Lenox

Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade is taking his talents to New Lenox again this summer.

Wade, who has put on a 3-on-3 basketball tournament in the village the past few summers, will be part of another Big Three this year as New Lenox expands from a tournament to a weekend full of camps and entertainment.

A basketball camp will be put on by Wade, Devin Hester of the Chicago Bears will run a football camp and Jim Peterik of Eye of the Tiger fame will run a music camp. Additionally, hip hop artist Sean Kingston will kick off the July weekend with a concert.

"(Wade) is all about the kids," said New Lenox Mayor Tim Baldermann, who first met Wade while doing personal security for the NBA star. "He is excited to be turning this into more than just a 3-on-3."

Registration is open to everyone, not just New Lenox residents, and must be done on the Procamps website. The camps will be held Thursday and Friday, July 7-8, at Lincoln-Way Central High School. There will also be a carnival in the west lot of the high school that runs all three days of the camp, as well as Sunday. From 1-5 p.m.  Saturday, the village's annual Kids Fest will be moved from the Commons to the high school.

The football camp will be held in the morning, and basketball and music camps will be in the afternoon. Registration for one camp is $199, but if someone wants to register for two camps it only costs $299. The Kingston concert, which will be July 7, costs $20 per ticket.

The football camp is for ages 7-14 while the other two are open to 7- to 18-year-olds. Baldermann said the number of participants will be limited, but the number isn't determined yet and that registration is based on first-come, first-serve.

Baldermann added that the sports and music stars will be present at the camps for the entire weekend to instruct children.

"It's not just a guest appearance and they're gone," Baldermann said. "At the village, we realize out primary function is to improve the quality of life for people. And we like to provide an entertainment value for people as part of that."

More information will be posted on the village's website later this week or early next week.

Click here to order Devin Hester’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Astros place OF Jason Michaels on DL

The Houston Astros placed outfielder Jason Michaels on the 15-day disabled list with a subluxation of his left shoulder.

The move, which is retroactive to April 25, was made on Tuesday and the team recalled outfielder Brian Bogusevic from Triple-A Oklahoma City to take his roster spot.

Michaels suffered the injury diving on a Prince Fielder triple in the third inning of Sunday's game against Milwaukee. He is batting just .111 with two walks over 11 games this season.

Bogusevic made his MLB debut with the Astros last season and over 19 games he batted .179 with three RBI.

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Ryan Braun marriage proposal backfires on fan

Marriage proposals in ballparks have become fairly common, usually with fans popping the question on scoreboards. So have adoring fans holding up signs hoping against hope their favorite player might respond.

But a Brewers fan -- or more specifically a Ryan Braun fan -- took it one step further last weekend. Her plan worked because it actually elicited a response from Braun, but backfired when the idea of including her cell phone number on her sign, which was shown on the Brewers' television broadcast, led to so many calls that Braun couldn't get through.

The fan, who said her name is Robin, got TV time and more publicity than she bargained for. Braun, who tried to call after the game, said, "I guess it wasn't meant to be."

He didn't say what his response would have been, but Braun does have a girlfriend -- not to mention a contract extension that guarantees him $145 million over the next 10 years.

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Gaby Sanchez hits one over the boards

Gaby Sanchez walked twice and hit a towering home run in four plate appearances in Tuesday's win over the Dodgers.

Sanchez has been arguably the Marlins' best hitter this season, as he's got his average up to .309 to go along with three home runs and 10 RBI. Also encouraging for the Marlins was Hanley Ramirez having his first multi-hit game since April 14.

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Indians' Chris Perez closes with hair and flair

Relief pitchers jog in from the bullpen, but closers like the Indians' Chris Perez should ride in on a Harley.

Successful closing is 75 percent killer pitch, 25 percent attitude and image. Requires a wild hair and wild hair.

Perez takes the mound with both -- a 95-mph fastball launched from a 6-4, 230-pound body with a thick dark beard and shoulder-length mane up top.

When the Indians acquired him and minor-league pitcher Jess Todd mid-season two years ago from St. Louis for Mark DeRosa, fans groaned because DeRosa was one of the team's few live bats. One columnist scoffed that the deal marked the club's annual summer garage sale.

But after a shaky start, Perez has emerged as one of the game's dominant closers.

The two runs he allowed last Thursday, blowing a save in the cold rain of Kansas City, were the first he had given up since Aug. 6.

Before the misfire, he hadn't given up a run in 261/3 innings dating back to last season, and had converted his last 15 saves. So far this season, Perez is six for seven when brought in to seal a win.

"I just have to go out and start a new streak like I did last year," he told reporters after the loss.

If he does, the 25-year-old right-hander could become a local cult hero. He's on the verge of it already.

One fan created a tribute Twitter account with the snappy handle, "Pure Rage Perez" -- a nickname hatched from a comment former Indians catcher Chris Gimenez made to reporters after a game last season, that Perez "showed pure rage out there."

"I guess it's kind of my de facto name in Cleveland," Perez said. "It's fine. It kind of adds to the mystique when I come out there."

Off the field, friends say he's more "Pure Chill," but Perez feeds into the cocky closer's persona. The bio on his actual Twitter account (twitter.com/chrisperez54) reads: "Relief pitcher for the Cleveland Indians . . . Former UM Hurricane . . . Just a normal guy with an arm like a f******* cannon."

He has surpassed 8,100 Twitter followers and is gaining about 500 a week. Fans are caught up in his success on the mound and the fact that he Tweets back to them and expresses what's on his mind, including a song of the day.

"Rough one tonight," he posted after his blown save in Kansas City. "Tomlin pitched excellent. Feel bad giving away his w. As Jay-Z says: 'On to the Next One.' "

"He's loved how the fans have rallied behind him. He loves that they call him the real Rick Vaughn [the wild child Charlie Sheen character in the film 'Major League']," said Andrew Lane, a former University of Miami teammate and his best man.

"I think he's a great fit for Cleveland," he said, "and Cleveland's a great fit for him."

It wasn't at first. His Tribe debut in 2009 was a disaster: four runs, two hits, hit two batters, threw a wild pitch, forgot to cover first on a potential double play in two-thirds of an inning.

"Not the impression I wanted to make," Perez said at the time.

His next two impressions weren't much better, but he stood in the clubhouse and faced reporters. He didn't hide, and, for better or worse, didn't filter his answers, once suggesting the catcher should have blocked a pitch in the dirt that set up the winning run.

"Well, that's from me," said his father, Tim Perez, a former junior college catcher who coached his son from age 4 through his junior year of high school. "I've always told him, 'If you believe in something, then stand behind it.' "

He started out a White Sox fan
Chris Perez grew up in Bradenton, Fla., a fan of the Chicago White Sox and their powerful first baseman Frank Thomas because they held spring training in nearby Sarasota. He put posters of "The Big Hurt" on his bedroom wall and still has his White Sox key chain.

Back then, Perez was also big and hurt the ball with his bat like his baseball idol. As a high school catcher, he once rocketed a home run off a light standard. That shot came against a team featuring Indians first baseman Matt LaPorta.

But he could throw a ball 90 mph as a freshman, and, by his senior year, was made a pitcher almost exclusively.

"He fought us for a while," his dad said, "because he wanted to hit."

At the University of Miami, Perez was in the starting rotation, but position and personality kind of clashed. He would last five innings and start to fade.

"I don't like holding anything back," he said. "I don't like having to pace yourself as a starter and having to set up guys because you might have to face them later. I like facing them with my best stuff right away."

When Miami's closer got hurt, Perez asked the coach for a shot at the position. His dad wondered whether it was a smart move, given that major-league scouts look for starting pitching, and asked if he was sure about the switch.

"He said, 'Dad, my dream is to be the last guy on the mound striking the last guy out,' " his father said.

With the Indians, Perez was Kerry Wood's set-up man initially. When Wood got hurt, then was dealt to the Yankees, Perez was given the chance to be that guy.

After the first few stumbles, Perez found a rhythm. Late in 2009, he made 20 straight appearances without allowing a run, and his 1.71 ERA was second among American League relievers and among the best in baseball last season.

In January, the Indians rewarded him with a one-year contract worth $2.23 million -- a $1.8 million raise from a salary just above the league minimum.

"When he's comfortable and feels good about what he's doing, that's what you're seeing now," said his father.

Gunslinger image left on the mound
You're also seeing a player Hollywood would have plucked in a casting call for closers.

Clean-shaven Mariano Rivera of the Yankees aside, the game's great stoppers would look right at home in the bleachers of an Oakland Raiders game.

Rollie Fingers and his handlebar mustache. The ratty look of sweaty, long-haired Dennis Eckersley. Thick-bearded Bruce Sutter, Jeff Reardon and now San Francisco's Brian Wilson, whose long jet-black beard looks like a cheap disguise.

They're burly, they're scary, they're usually a little off -- even if it's an act, like Al "The Mad Hungarian" Hrabosky, with his Fu Manchu and untamed hair, who angrily stomped to the back of the mound to psyche himself up.

Perez said he would sport the beard and long hair if he was a middle reliever, because he looks like a teenager without it.

And friends say he leaves the gunslinger image on the mound.

On road games in college, Perez and Lane would play TV "Jeopardy!" or explore the town like tourists. If Perez had any meal money left over, he would buy baseball cards.

He's into video games and old cars. At home, he prefers to barbecue, sit back and relax.

"The person he is now is the person he's always been," said Jared Powell, a friend since they were teens.

When time allows, Perez is learning to play the black Fender acoustic guitar with Hawaiian trees along the neck he had shipped to the clubhouse. He's an avid collector of baseball cards, autographs and jerseys -- many of which adorn the man cave of the Tampa, Fla., home where he, wife, Melanie, and their 6-month-old son, Maxwell, live.

The room has the required big-screen TV, a pool table and a scuffed wood floor and ceiling from a Tennessee auditorium where Elvis Presley once performed. (It was there when they bought the house. He rocks to Led Zeppelin.)

"Yeah, I think you have to be kind of a free spirit," said Hall of Fame closer Goose Gossage, who saved 310 games in 22 seasons, mostly with the White Sox, Yankees and San Diego.

To be dominant over the long haul, he said, you must have one overpowering pitch, handle the pressure of being either the hero or goat night in, night out and be able to file and forget a horrible outing.

"Willie Nelson has a song, 'Yesterday is dead and gone,' " Gossage said. "You've got to learn from the bad, build on the good and absolutely let it go."

Like a 95-mph fastball with the game on the line.

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Michael Irvin furiously fires up 'Canes in speech before spring game

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Andre Johnson gets clean bill of health

Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson played through most of the 2010 season with a high-ankle sprain in his right foot. That injury is now officially a thing of the past.

Johnson told the Miami Hurricane, the campus newspaper at his former school, that he recently received medical clearance after having arthroscopic surgery on Jan. 12.

“I started (training) a little later this year because of a little ankle surgery that I had,” Johnson said. “That’s pretty much it, but (the lockout) hasn’t changed anything as far as me training. I just got cleared by the doctor, but that’s the only thing that has held me back a little bit.”

Johnson was injured last season in Week 2 at Washington. He wound up missing three games but still finished sixth in the league with 86 catches and 1,216 yards. But the five-time Pro Bowler isn’t resting on his laurels as he approaches his ninth NFL season.

“Every year I just try to come in and work harder than I worked the year before,” he said. “I come back here and do the same things I’ve done to get me to the point where I made it into the NFL. That’s why I come back here, that’s why I bust my butt every day that I’m in here so that I can stay on top of my game. I’m not getting any younger, and there are a lot of talented guys coming in every year. You have to compete at a high level every year, so I just try to maintain what I’ve been doing.”

Click here to order Andre Johnson’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Frank Gore: Harbaugh not afraid to run the ball

New 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh ran the ball on 58.9 percent of his offensive plays while at Stanford.

Harbaugh may have been a quarterback in the NFL, but he likes to build his offense around a power running game. He's already stated that he wants to "build a bully." Workhorse Frank Gore certainly fits that mold and projects to be among the league leaders in carries net season.

Click here to order Frank Gore’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Antonio Dixon expected to start next season

Updating a previous report, Philadelphia Eagles DT Antonio Dixon is expected to start at defensive tackle next season because of how well he played this season.

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Orlando Franklin attended medical recheck

Miami T/G Orlando Franklin revealed that he was among the draft prospects who attended the Combine medical recheck on April 8.
The results weren't disclosed, but this shows that teams were genuinely concerned with Franklin's knee. We researched Franklin extensively and are aware of no missed games in college due to injury. He played in 51 games with 39 starts. Franklin is projected to be drafted in the second- to third-round rannge.

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Allen Bailey worked out for Panthers

University of Miami defensive end Allen Bailey recently worked out for the Carolina Panthers, according to a league source with knowledge of the situation.

He has visited the San Diego Chargers, Denver Broncos, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons and worked out for the New England Patriots and Falcons.

Per a source, Bailey was visited in Miami by an NFL head coach and general manager.

The powerful 6-foot-3, 285-pounder ran the 40-yard dash in 4.71 seconds at the NFL scouting combine and registered a 36 1/2 inch vertical leap, a 9-9 broad jump and bench pressed 225 pounds 27 times.

Named second-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference, Bailey led the Hurricanes last season with seven sacks as he posted 45 tackles, 11 for losses.

A converted linebacker, Bailey has played defensive tackle and end. He has drawn varying grades with at least one NFL team projecting him as a late first-round selection and others expecting him to go in the second round.

Draft analysts have questioned whether Bailey fits best at tackle or end. He said he believes his best position is as a 4-3 defensive end.

"I feel like I probably could put on more weight, but we’ll see," Bailey said. "I’d played strictly outside the last three years, so it was an adjustment going inside. I got the swing of everything and adjusted pretty well."

As a junior, Bailey recorded seven sacks and 11 tackles for losses to earn first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors.

For his career, he finished with 107 tackles, 33 for losses and 20 sacks.

Bailey grew up in an extremely small Georgia town called Hog Hammock 15 miles off the coast on Sapelo Island. Recruiters had to take a half-hour boat ride to get to Bailey, which has a population of about 50 people.

The legend goes that recruiters were renting speed boats to outhustle the competition for Bailey.

"They'll find you anywhere," said Bailey, who chose Miami over Alabama, Florida and Georgia. "I wanted to get out of the state of Georgia, so why not Miami? It was pretty close. I’d never traveled too much. I didn’t travel at all until my senior year of high school. So, I wanted to do that."

It was tough for Bailey to organize games since there were only about 20 kids on the island.

"We had football, basketball, outdoor stuff," Bailey said.

Bailey bench presses 420 pounds and power cleans 375 pounds and was twice named Strength Training Athlete of the Year.

He has several nicknames, including Billy Bicep.

That met with Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris' approval.

"Billy Bicep, Popeye. Big Bailey, a whole list of them," Bailey said. "Favorites for me were Popeye and Billy Bicep."

Bailey said he talked to Tampa Bay, Atlanta, the Kansas City Chiefs, Chargers and the Cleveland Browns for combine interviews. He also interviewed with the Falcons at the Senior Bowl.

Bailey said his best football remains ahead of him.

"I kind of know some of my weaknesses," Bailey said. "Hands need work sometimes, getting off blocks, attacking blockers."

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James Jones emerges as surprise contributor for Heat

With his role reduced in recent seasons and his reserved nature not prone to hype, it is easy to forget that James Jones has been here before, at the highest level of playoff competition, with visions of the NBA Finals.

"My first year in Phoenix we lost in the Western Conference finals," the Miami Heat reserve forward said during a break in this opening-round NBA playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers. "Between me and Boris Diaw, we played a lot.

"You never forget what it is like to play when it means something."

Through the first four games of this best-of-seven series, which the Heat lead 3-1, Jones has been the Heat's most reliable perimeter player behind mainstays LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

With swingman Mike Miller pulled from the rotation due his erratic play and various ailments, and with point guards Mike Bibby and Mario Chalmers struggling with their shot, Jones has emerged as an unlikely closer.

"This just happens to be my moment," the University of Miami product and Southwest Ranches resident said.

Through the first four game of the series, Jones is shooting 50 percent from the field and a respectable 5 of 13 on 3-pointers. By contrast, the team's remaining wings -- Miller, Bibby, Chalmers and Eddie House -- are 13 of 54 from the field through the four games, a worrisome .241 percentage.

After averaging 19.1 minutes during the regular season, Jones is averaging 23.8 in this series.

Initially bought out in the offseason to clear cap space for the free-agency haul of James, Wade and Chris Bosh, Jones was re-signed to a minimal deal.

An enhanced playoff role certainly was not the vision in July.

"James has been steady, probably one of the more consistent guys all season long in his role," coach Erik Spoelstra said. "Number one, he's smart enough to understand what his role is. He stays within that role. He accepts it. He doesn't get outside of his boundaries very often.

"He's one of our best team defenders, and obviously we know about his ability to step in and take hits and do a lot of the dirty work on the weak side and we value all of those things."

But taking charges is not the ultimate value. It is attracting defenders, something the Heat's other 3-point shooters have had trouble doing, particularly Bibby, who missed open shot after open shot in Sunday's 86-82 loss at Wells Fargo Center.

"He spaces the floor for us, whether he's making shots or not," Spoelstra said of Jones. "People know where he is on the floor at all times. So he's been productive for us and that's the reason why he's playing."

That, of course, is only part of the story. He is playing because Miller seemingly can't and because the rest of the perimeter rotation is struggling.

But what he has done is create confidence, not only with his shooting, but with defense as good as anything being offered on the perimeter beyond James and Wade.

"He stays in front of guys defensively," James said. "He's always in tune on the weak side. He takes as many hits as anybody on our team, twice as many, and he's always aware of what's going on on the court. So you've got to respect that."

Less respected is Jones' playoff resume. Yet entering this postseason, there were 52 games of postseason experience, just 14 fewer than Wade. And there was that run through the 2006 postseason with the Phoenix Suns that left him two victories shy of a meeting with the Heat in the 2006 Finals.

While that would have evoked a warm homecoming story, what he could potentially accomplish now with his hometown team in this newly expanded role is just as stirring.

"It's always better to do it at home," he said. "The playoffs, just being a part of the playoffs, is something special. But being able to do it at home means a lot more.

"I'm with that team that I watched growing up. I'm with the team that has been my NBA team for as long as I can remember. That holds some special value, because that's something that rarely happens in this league."

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Impressive Darius Rice sinks Isa Town

DARIUS Rice powered Manama to a crushing 83-64 victory over Isa Town last night in the Zain Bahrain Basketball League. Rice buried an impressive seven three-pointers en route to scoring a game-high 28 points to lead his team to the romp.

The six-foot, 10-inch big man from the US also grabbed 14 rebounds as Manama came away with their 10th win of their league campaign and moved to a tie in first place on the standings with bitter rivals Muharraq.

Point guard Ahmed Abdulaziz added 17 markers while versatile wing Bader Abdulla Malabes scored 14. Malabes also dished out six assists and committed zero turnovers.

Ahmed Al Mutawa added 13 points for Manama to go along with three blocks.

Rice was sinking baskets from all over the floor in yesterday's game, and made it look easy in the process.

After Manama took a 21-12 lead at the end of the opening quarter, Rice helped his side pull away in the second with a big triple late in the half to make it 41-23 heading into the break.

Rice continued his hot shooting in the third, connecting on another three long-range bombs in the period for a comfortable 61-33 advantage. They eventually went ahead 68-41 with just the last canto to play.

Such was Manama's dominance that even veteran forward Abdulmajeed Shahram, who was playing in his first game for the team after coming out of a one-and-a-half-year retirement, scored from beyond the arc.

Shahram put Manama 33 points in front with his basket, 81-48. It was their biggest lead of the night, and his shot drew the loudest cheers from the sparse crowd that was in attendance at Zain Basketball Arena in Um Al Hassam.

Isa Town managed to close the gap during garbage time with solid play from American professional Jamal Holden, and Bahraini talents Hassan Ramadan and Ali Traif.

Holden finished the game with a team-best 23 points and eight rebounds, but he was their lone player in double figures. Ramadan contributed nine points while Traif had eight.

Isa Town suffered their seventh loss after 12 games, but are still in contention for a berth in the six-team play-off round.

No league games are scheduled for tonight, but action resumes tomorrow with Muharraq taking on Al Ettihad at 5.30pm, followed by defending champions Al Ahli locking horns with Al Hala at 7.15pm.

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Bank Loses Money on John Salmons's House

In late 2009, the builder of this new five-bedroom Glencoe home, which had been on the market for $3.295 million, opted to rent it for $7,000 a month to John Salmons of the Chicago Bulls. At the time, it looked like a smart tactic since two other new homes in the neighborhood had just gone as short sales (meaning the bank agreed to sell the properties for less than what was due on their mortgages).

But Salmons left Chicago to play for the Milwaukee Bucks in early 2010, and in August, the residence was still unsold. Ownership was transferred from the builder to the lender, PrivateBank, which put the house back on the market in October at $2.7 million. The French-style home, which stands on a little more than half an acre, with a view across the street to a golf course, finally sold in late December for $1.95 million.

That’s just $450,000 more than the $1.5 million that the original developer paid for the lot in 2006. A conservative estimate of construction costs—$200 per square foot on the 7,000-square-foot home—comes to $1.4 million, which suggests that the house sold for almost $1 million less than the combined investment of roughly $2.9 million in land and construction. The buyers are not identified in public records, and PrivateBank officers could not be reached for comment.

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Ryan Braun Named the National League Player of the Week

Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun has been named the National League Player of the Week for the period ending April 24th.

In six games last week, Braun batted .480 (12-for-25), was tied for first in the Majors with nine RBI and was tied for first in the National League with three home runs. The righty slugger's 12 hits and 21 total bases were tops among National Leaguers. The three-time N.L. All-Star also placed second in the N.L. with an .840 slugging percentage and nine runs scored while his .533 on-base percentage ranked fifth. The 2007 N.L. Rookie of the Year has reached base safely in 21-consecutive games to start the season, the second-longest such streak in franchise history behind Robin Yount's 23 games in 1983. On Monday, April 18th, Braun went 3-for-4 and collected two RBI, including the game-winner on a sacrifice fly in the top of the 12th, to lead the Brewers to a 6-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizen's Bank Park. The University of Miami product clubbed a home run off of Phillies ace Roy Halladay on Tuesday the 19th, en route to 9-0 Brewers victory over the Phils. Braun had his second three-hit performance of the week on Friday, April 22nd, homering and driving in three runs as the Brew Crew defeated the Astros 14-7 at Miller Park. The California native is currently tied for the Major League lead with seven home runs and 21 runs scored, and is tied for fourth with a .377 batting average and 18 RBI. This is his third career weekly award (winning previously for the weeks ending 5/11/2009 and 8/8/2010).

Other noteworthy performances last week included Braun's teammates, first baseman Prince Fielder (.458, 11 H, 6 RBI, 7 R) and left-handed starter Randy Wolf (2-0, 0.64, 9 SO, 14.0 IP); Cardinals outfielder and last week's N.L. Player of the Week, Lance Berkman (.588, 10 H, .824 SLG), first baseman Albert Pujols (.286, 3 HR, 7 RBI, .714 SLG), right-handed starter Kyle Lohse (1-0, 0.00, CG, SHO) and reliever Mitchell Boggs (0.00, 3 SV, 3 SO, 3.1 IP); Dodgers third baseman Casey Blake (.370, 2 HR, 10 H, 10 R), outfielder Andre Ethier (.393, 11 H, HR, 6 RBI) and infielder Juan Uribe (.450, 2 HR, 9 RBI); Giants outfielder Pat Burrell (.429, 9 H, HR); Mets first baseman Ike Davis (.381, 3 HR, .905 SLG) and third baseman David Wright (.286, 3 HR, 6 RBI); Cubs outfielder Kosuke Fukudome (.526, 10 H, .591 OBP); and Marlins ace Josh Johnson (1-0, 0.64, 14.0 IP, 15 SO).

The National League Player of the Week, Ryan Braun, will be awarded a watch courtesy of Game Time, the leader in licensed sports watches, available at MLB.com.

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Brandon Harris: ready for the NFL

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Orlando Franklin could be first Miami Hurricane taken in NFL draft's first round

CORAL GABLES — For the first time in three years, the University of Miami is expected to have a player taken in the first round of the NFL Draft.
Most of the speculation has centered around cornerback Brandon Harris and receiver Leonard Hankerson. But some draft analysts think the first UM player to be picked could be Orlando Franklin, the massive Hurricanes' offensive lineman by way of Atlantic High.

"He's very raw, but athletically there are not many guys like him that are playing left tackle in this year's draft," said Russ Lande, a former Cleveland Browns' scout now serving as The Sporting News' draft analyst. "You just don't find guys his size that can move their feet like he does. It's impossible."

ESPN.com's Todd McShay recently projected the 6-foot-6, 316-pound Franklin to be selected by Pittsburgh with the 31st overall pick, although he has since pushed him down to the second round.

"I'm just happy that I'm getting an opportunity to be drafted," said Franklin last month after participating in UM's Pro Day. "Growing up in Toronto, Canada, I never thought I'd be in the position that I'm in."

Franklin, a native Jamaican, moved to Palm Beach County from Canada as a high school senior. In one season at Atlantic, he established himself as a hot football prospect and signed with Miami.

Unable to meet UM's admission standards out of high school, Franklin sat out 2006 before finally enrolling at UM in the summer of 2007.

He played in 51 games and made 39 starts as a collegian, splitting his time between guard and tackle. He was so impressive during a 2007 game against Virginia star defensive lineman Chris Long, the NFL's No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 draft, that Long wrote this message on Franklin's Facebook page: "You're going to be a real good player. Just keeping having fun and I'll see you on the next level."

That time has come.

"I've always liked Franklin," McShay said. "Whether it's inside at guard or at tackle, over time I think he's going to become a good starting offensive lineman in the league."

Franklin had arthroscopic knee surgery on Jan. 3, but recovered in time to stand out at the NFL Scouting Combine in March.

The biggest question is whether he will remain at tackle, where he played as a senior, or shift back to guard, the position he played during his first three years at UM.

"I really don't have a preference, but if you ask me what position I'm most comfortable, I'm definitely more comfortable at guard because I played it for three years," Franklin said.

The Hurricanes could have as many as eight players selected in the draft (Thursday through Saturday), which would be the most produced by the school since 2006 when nine were drafted.

In his latest mock draft, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. has six Hurricanes going in the first 86 picks, although none are projected to be chosen in the first round.

DeMarcus Van Dyke, a cornerback who was a backup as a senior, has seen his stock rise dramatically since running 40 yards in 4.28 seconds at the combine. That clocking was the third fastest at the combine since 2000.

Potential Hurricanes in the NFL Draft
Eight Miami players are projected to be drafted. Listed by name, position, height, weight and is which rounds they're likely to be taken:
Brandon Harris, CB, 5-foot-10, 191 pounds - Rounds 1-2
Leonard Hankerson, WR, 6-2, 209 - Rounds 1-2
Orlando Franklin, OL, 6-6, 316, Rounds 1-2
DeMarcus Van Dyke, CB, 6-1, 176 - Rounds 2-3
Allen Bailey, DL, 6-3, 285 - Rounds 2-3
Colin McCarthy, LB, 6-1, 238 - Rounds 3-4
Graig Cooper, RB, 5-10, 205 - Rounds 6-7
Damien Berry, RB, 5-10, 211 - Rounds 6-7

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Vince Wilfork keeps healthy focus

Thanks to pictures he’s posted on his Twitter account, we’ve seen Vince Wilfork [stats] doing rope exercises to help keep in shape as NFL players remain in lockout limbo.

So what else has the Patriots [team stats] Pro Bowl nose tackle been up to as the owners and players take a break from court-ordered mediation?

Well, after exchanging several e-mails with the big man last week, we got a pretty good idea. For starters, he’s busy preparing for his annual draft day fund-raising party. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

Along with doing his daily workout regimen, he’s been tending to his garden at his offseason home in Florida. That’s right. Big Vince has gone greens. He’s out in his yard, inspecting the plants, making sure they’re healthy and warding off pests that may kill his produce.

“Right now, I have collard greens, corn and green beans,” Wilfork wrote. “I usually do tomatoes, strawberries, bell peppers, lettuce and whatever else I want to try.”

Wilfork indicated he’s always wanted a garden to grow fresh fruits and vegetables, and a few years back, a good friend of his, Wayne Carboni, who owns a landscaping company in Franklin, helped him get one started at his Franklin home.

This year, because of the lockout, Wilfork has been in Florida since the Pro Bowl in Hawaii in January, so he started a garden at that home, as well, so he could maintain his green thumb.

“(Because of the lockout) I’ve had a great chance to actually put my garden in, and be here long enough to watch it grow,” Wilfork said. “Usually, I plant everything in the middle of June and then I am back in New England so fast I don’t get to see it, so this is good.”

Wilfork, a true renaissance man, has also been working on perfecting his homemade barbecue sauce and dry rub. That’s in between workout session so he’ll be in shape whenever the lockout ends. He works out twice a day, once in the morning, and again in the afternoon when his 13-year-old son D’Aundre gets home from school.

“I haven’t gotten together with my line guys yet,” Wilfork wrote, referring to his teammates on the defensive line. “Maybe after the Kentucky Derby (May 7). But I keep in constant contact with them.”

Of course, Wilfork and his wife Bianca have everything in place for their fund-raiser on Thursday at Pinz Entertainment in Milford.

The cause remains diabetes research and finding a cure. Wilfork lost his father to the disease and remains staunch in his efforts to support the cause. After years of hosting the party on Saturdays, the previously traditional opening day of the draft, having the marquee first round moved to Thursday night, and the starting time pushed back an hour this year hasn’t helped attendance. But the Wilforks have persevered.

“Thursday made the event a little tough, but it still turns out great (last year),” Wilfork wrote. “This year, we are keeping our fingers crossed with it being Thursday, the NFL pushing the start time back a little later, moving it up a week because of the holiday weekend, so now we have a work week, instead of April vacation, not to mention the whole lockout. So we have a ton of obstacles this year, but diabetes doesn’t pause or stop because of those things. So we can’t either.

“The only thing that stops is people breathing, as diabetes takes their life from them like it did my dad. So we keep pushing on, trying to find a cure. I try to stress on these social media outlets, it doesn’t take much. Twenty-something followers on Twitter, if everyone donates one dollar, that’s amazing.”

Already, four days before the event, Wilfork indicated there’s been some sizeable contributions, and he’s extremely grateful.

“I have once again been overwhelmed by the outpouring of donations that I get for my fund-raiser,” Wilfork wrote. “(Saints linebacker) John Vilma just sent in a large donation. (Former Patriots teammate) Jarvis Green, and my agent Kennard McGuire have all made significant donations. And Mr. (Robert) Kraft and the Patriots have always supported my foundation and event, even though they have their own event the same day.

“But it’s the everyday people, the ones who live paycheck to paycheck that touch me the most, whether it’s one dollar, 10 dollars or 100 dollars. I know they made a choice and a sacrifice to send that money in and believe me, the ones who can not contribute financially, they spread the word, they send their well wishes, and they share their own heartbreaking stories of how diabetes affected them.”

Who does Wilfork like in the draft from his alma mater, Miami? Any prospective Patriots [team stats] in the mix?

“(Allen) Bailey and (Leonard) Hankerson are my top picks out of THE U!!” he wrote, referring to the Miami defensive lineman and wide receiver, both of whom had pre-draft contact with the Pats.

Click here to order Vince Wilfork’s proCane Rookie Card.

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Chiefs may target Leonard Hankerson

Leonard Hankerson may never become the next great wide receiver from the University of Miami. That doesn’t mean he won’t eventually become a useful player for some NFL team, including the Chiefs.

Few NFL teams are as needy at wide receiver as the Chiefs, who have several candidates but no appealing choice to pair with Dwayne Bowe.
“It’s an honor being mentioned in the same category of some guys: Lamar Thomas, Reggie Wayne, Michael Irvin, Andre Johnson,” Hankerson said, referring to some of the best receivers to play for the Hurricanes. “It’s an honor just having my name up in the category with those guys. You want to carry on their traditions.

“It’s no pressure. You just got to go out and work hard, compete in the weight room and in practice, you just have to do what you have to do to make plays and help the team out.”

Hankerson’s final season at Miami stands statistically among the best ever at Miami. He caught 72 passes and set school records for yards (1,156) and receiving touchdowns (13).

That alone puts him in good company, and those numbers could have been better had Hankerson not dropped so many passes. Those drops show he still has some developing to do, one reason he will probably be a second- or third-round pick.

He may begin his career as a part-time player but perhaps could become an accomplished player over time. That type of receiver would be of value to the Chiefs.

Bowe made the Pro Bowl last season for the first time in his career, but this year will be the final season of his contract. The Chiefs tried several players as their second wide receiver last season but had no success finding a reliable player.

Other than Bowe, their best receivers were tight end Tony Moeaki and running back Jamaal Charles.

The draft’s two best wide receivers, Georgia’s A.J. Green and Alabama’s Julio Jones, will be selected by other teams by the time the Chiefs make their first pick at No. 21 in the first round.

The only other receiver possibly worth the 21st pick is Maryland’s Torrey Smith.

“If Torrey Smith is available, they should at least consider him,” draft analyst Shawn Zobel said. “I’d have no problem with them taking him with the 21st pick if they feel he’s a guy who could add to their offense. He’s a vertical threat, so he would fit in nicely with Dwayne Bowe. They’ve got Moeaki in the middle and (Dexter) McCluster in the slot. That would make for a good offense, especially when you consider they also have Jamaal Charles.

“If they’re looking for a receiver in the first round, that’s who they’d take.”

If the Chiefs pass on Smith, Hankerson could be their choice in the second round.

“He doesn’t play to his speed but is certainly a tall, angular receiver and a good, natural pass catcher,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper said. “He had some drops, but that was because of concentration issues rather than hands. He has real good hands.”

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Pat Burrell putting it together

San Francisco Giants OF Pat Burrell went 3-for-4 with two doubles and two runs scored Saturday, April 23, against the Atlanta Braves. The doubles were the first extra-base hits of the season for Burrell which were not home runs. His average is now at a season-high .250, tying his mark after the first game of the year back on March 31.

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Jemile Weeks' home run sets tone for River Cats

The Sacramento River Cats (10-7) defeated the Tucson Padres (6-11) 4-2 on Saturday night at home, backed by solo home runs by second baseman Jemile Weeks and first baseman Anthony Recker.

Weeks wasted little time putting Sacramento on the scoreboard as he launched a leadoff solo home run into the visiting team’s bullpen, on Tucson starting pitcher Will Inman’s (0-2) second pitch of the game.

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Ryan Braun places call to adoring Brewers fan

MILWAUKEE -- Too bad Robin didn't clear some of those prank voice mails, because Ryan Braun actually called.

"Robin" is the young lady who brought a sign to Miller Park Friday night demanding, "Marry me, Ryan." It came complete with her real cell phone number, and caught the all-seeing eyes of FS Wisconsin crew members, who put Robin on the air during the Brewers' blowout win over the Astros.

Gutsy move, and it worked. Braun called after the game and got Robin's voice mail, which was unfortunately full.

"I guess it wasn't meant to be," Braun said with a smile.

Actually, Braun is taken, and his girlfriend was among the family and friends on hand Thursday when the All-Star outfielder signed his five-year contract extension through 2020.

Braun cited the fan support he's received in Milwaukee since the Brewers made him a first-round Draft pick in 2005 as one reason he wanted to stay. That includes, of course, the support of young ladies trying to get hitched.

They stood 31,907 strong on Friday night and gave Braun standing ovations before every at-bat. He delivered a go-ahead home run in the third inning, and considering he's under contract for the next 10 seasons, he could be hitting many more over the years at Miller Park.

"It'll take a little while for me to really understand what that means or the significance of that," Braun said. "It's been a pretty crazy 24-48-hour period. I'm trying to enjoy it, trying to embrace it because it is a special time."

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